Friday, June 18, 2010

What I Have Learned from Decades of Weight Control

This is the fifth and final post in a series on weight control. In previous posts (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4), I have discussed my various approaches to maintaining a healthy weight throughout most of my life. In this post I will sum up what I have learned about weight control.

After fighting the battle of the bulge for decades, I have learned that different things work for different people, and that different approaches may be required at various stages of life. If you want to reduce to a healthy weight, the first thing you’ve got to do is to find a program that actually works for you. What works for someone else may not work for you. Or you may find that you simply can’t stand it. Each individual requires a custom approach. Discovering what works for you may require some experimentation.

I have also learned that pretty much every successful weight loss program involves denying yourself foods and habits that you very much enjoy and/or to which you are addicted. There’s just no getting around this fact. Mark Twain famously quipped, “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not.” So, find a set of restrictions you can live with without cheating much and give it a whirl.

To do this, you need to understand your own personality to a certain degree. Some people only have success when a social element is involved. They find weigh-ins, group meetings, and even working out with others at a public gym to be useful. They need the positive peer pressure to keep them on track.  Me? I’m a lone wolf. I like to manage my diet and exercise privately. But knowing that helps me find approaches that work for me.

It is also important to be willing to try new and different things when the program you are using stops producing acceptable results. Some people seem to find methods that permanently work for them. That hasn’t been my experience. Every few years I end up having to rework my diet. Besides, variety also has benefits.

One of the main secrets to weight control is to dive into whatever program you choose with full commitment. Programs with limited timeframes can be appealing because many people can succeed at maintaining self discipline for a specified number of weeks. The key is to commit and then to do it completely.

Success often breeds more success. When you start on a program and get good results, it provides a pattern for how to continue to succeed. But, as stated above, if your program stops working for you, don’t be afraid to try something different.

Perhaps the greatest key to weight control is controlling your mental picture of yourself. If your mental self image is of an overweight person, your weight loss will be difficult and/or temporary. Permanent weight loss requires an ingrained image of a slender you. There are ways to develop such an image. Some experts claim that only external influences can cause this, but I believe my own experience proves this theory wrong. Get the right image in your head and the appropriate behavior will naturally follow.

Some people never have a problem with excess weight. I didn’t get that kind of body at birth. I imagine that I will be fighting the battle of the bulge for the rest of my natural life. So far, I have figured that it is a battle worth fighting.

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